Monday, August 28, 2017

Unanimous Decisions

There have been few major sporting events through the years that TigerBlog has cared about less than the Mayweather-McGregor fight the other night.

Mayweather won, apparently. And he made $100 million. McGregor, for his part, got $30 million.

Boxing, of course, used to be one of the two biggest sports in the American culture, and was so for a long time. The other, by the way, was baseball.

Many of the biggest political and racial storylines of the 20th century also played out in a boxing ring, whether it was German Max Schmeling and black American Joe Louis in the late 1930s or Muhammad Ali in the 1960s, with his brashness, anti-Vietnam War stance and conversion to Islam.

Even non-political boxers stood for more than themselves in their corners. Billy Conn represented the entire city of Pittsburgh, not to mention every Irish-Catholic in America, every time he fought.

Major championship fights were enormous events, way beyond the scale of Mayweather-McGregor, though obviously not in actual dollars.

When the Associated Press ranked its top 100 athletes of the 20th century, five of the top 44 were boxers, including two of the top seven. Can you name the five?

Then along came a lot of problems for boxing. First, every big fight used to be on television, with Howard Cosell as its voice. Then along came pay per view, which hurt the mass appeal for the sport, even as it made richer paydays possible.

The main issue, at least to TigerBlog, is that for decades, everyone knew who the heavyweight champion of the world was. Patterson. Liston. Clay/Ali. Frazier. Foreman. Creed. Balboa. Lang. Balboa again. Everyone knew those names.

Then along came an alphabet soup of boxing organizations, all with their own champions, with no sense of who actually was the one, true champ. That really hurt everything involved with boxing.

Through in the supersonic rise of football on TV, and there you go. Boxing is now something that fewer and fewer people like, or are willing to invest in to watch.

Boxing in the Olympics when TigerBlog was a kid was huge. It was also a springboard to instant name recognition for the best, like Sugar Ray Leonard, for instance.

There were some unbelievable fights back then. TigerBlog watched Leon Spinks, another Olympic gold medalist, beat Ali, on regular TV, back in 1978. Maybe the last really classic fight was Hagler-Hearns, and that was more than 30 years ago. Even the fight the other night was gimmicky. Isn't McGregor an MMA guy?

There's a lesson in there for other sports, by the way. Just because you're huge now, it doesn't mean you'll always be that way.

TigerBlog was much more interested in the start of a new Princeton athletic year than the big fight.

The women's soccer team kicked things off with a pair of unanimous decisions, knocking off Monmouth 3-0 Friday night and Villanova 2-0 yesterday.

When TigerBlog watched the highlights on from the two games, his first thought was that Princeton's new uniforms are pretty nice. Beyond that, a weekend sweep over two teams who had already played two games each prior to taking on the Tigers.

In the earliest part of the season, it's not easy to be the team that hasn't played yet, let alone the team that has only practiced for less than two weeks. It's not easy to simply waltz into game shape.

Abby Givens had three goals for Princeton this weekend after having only three a year ago, when she was honorable mention All-Ivy League as a freshman. Mimi Asom had her first of the year in the game against Villanova, and Natalie Larkin had the first of the year, in the win over Monmouth.

That's another good sign. Five goals in two games, from three different players, with another emerging scoring leader. And, of course, no goals allowed.

Next up is a relatively challenging weekend, as Princeton heads to the Givens' home state of North Carolina (she's a Charlotte native). The Tigers will be at North Carolina State and Wake Forest Friday and Sunday, and those two are already a combined 7-0-0.

After that trip, Princeton is back for four games on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium in 10 days, beginning Sept. 7 against Rider and then followed by New Hampshire (Sept. 10), West Virginia (Sept. 15) and Delaware (Sept. 17). After that, there will be six days until Yale comes to Princeton for the Ivy opener (Sept. 23).

For the first weekend, things looked really good for Princeton.

And it wasn't just the uniforms.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your short history of boxing's faded popularity is a good reminder that the world of sports is not immutable. I predict that, within fifty years, football will not be sponsored by school districts in many of the country's most affluent towns because parents fear CTE. The trend will be evident within twenty years. Into this growing void within spectator sports, the popularity of lacrosse will continue to increase.